Choosing Bike Pedals

Your choices of pedal will depend on where, how farand how often you ride your bike. As a general rule, cross-country mountain bikers, dedicated cycle commutersand road riders tend to choose clipless pedals. Most freeriders tend to use wide platform pedals. Casual, occasional riders are best served with simple platform pedals.

Clipless Pedals
Clipless pedals increase the power in your pedal stroke by locking your foot in position and allowing you to both push and pull with each stroke.

It takes a bit of practice to correctly set the cleat position on your shoe. This was especially critical with early models which had no float. However, most new designs incorporate a certain amount of float that helps alleviate the chance of knee and ankle problems associated with a misaligned cleat.

The amount of float (measured in degrees) is the amount of sideways play or movement between the pedal and cleat. A little bit of float is a good thing since it allows your joints to follow a natural pedal stroke.

In general, the easier it is for you to disengage from your pedals the more comfortable you’ll feel on the bike. Many pedals include a foot tension adjustment; this helps control how much sideways force you need to apply to your pedal before your foot will disengage. Experienced mountain bikers like tight pedals so they don’t unclip in rough terrain.

Clipless Road Pedals
Clipless road pedals differ from conventional clipless pedals in several ways:

  • Many road pedals are “one sided” (they only engage on one side) to maximize clearance and weight.
  • The high clearance helps riders minimize the chance of grinding the pedal on the ground when pedaling through sharp turns. If you’ve experienced this youl know that at best, you scared the heck out of yourself and at worst, you took a really nasty fall.
  • They are also designed to keep the foot as close as possible to the spindle. This is called the stack height. As a general rule, the lower the stack height, the better.
  • Finally, since road rides tend to last much longer than mountain bike rides, you may want to consider a pedal with ample float. This can enhance your riding comfortand reduce strain on your joints.

Platform Pedals
There are essentially two styles of platform pedals. The basic model is what most people visualize when they think of a bike pedal. The second model is a larger, wider, freeride platform pedal. You may notice a large difference in price between seemingly identical platform pedals. This is usually attributed to a few basic features.

  • The overall quality of the craftsmanship and materials. The platform can be made out of aluminum or steel. As a general rule, the lighter the pedal, the more expensive it is.
  • The quality of the spindle (the part that attaches to the crank arms). Precision-machined chromoly spindles are more rigid and durable than simple steel spindles.
  • Sealed bearings are also an expensive feature. Sealed bearings offer a smoother more consistent spinning pedal. Traditional open bearing sets can feel stiff and clunky. They are also more susceptible to damage from water, grime and grit.
  • Removable studs. Higher end pedal offers, small removable studs that can be replaced as they wear out or are lost.

There are many features that you can choose from. The choices you make will help determine the right pedal for you. Your eventually choice of pedal will depend on where, how farand how often you ride your bike.

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